Monday, September 16, 2013

Lizzie Leigh  -  1855
Elizabeth Gaskell
54 pages
genre  -  General Fiction
my rating  -  3 out of 5 stars

"James Leigh died just as the far-away bells...were ringing for morning service on Christmas Day, 1836.  A few minutes before his death, he opened his...eyes, and made a sign to his wife...She stooped close down, and caught the broken whisper, 'I forgive her, Annie!  May God forgive me!'"

James Leigh has been "hard, stern and inflexible", so when Lizzie, their only daughter, makes a serious mistake, she is declared dead to them, and her name is not to be spoken.

But now the master of the house is dead, and Mrs. Leigh is determined to find her prodigal daughter.  She must still be alive.  Mrs. Leigh convinces her two sons to leave their home and move to Manchester where Lizzie was last known to be and begin the search.

This illustration by George du Maurier is for an 1865 edition of Lizzie Leigh.

Elizabeth Gaskell tells a wonderful story of love, compassion and redemption.  The reason for only giving the story only 3 stars was the dialect used by the people.  It was at times difficult to understand their speech, and there were a few times I had to guess the meaning of the words. 

About the author  - 

Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson was born on 29 September 1810 at 93 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. She was the youngest of eight children; only she and her brother John survived infancy. Her father, William Stevenson, was a Scottish Unitarian minister at Failsworth, Lancashire, but resigned his orders on conscientious grounds in 1806.  (Does that sound similar to North and South?)

From 1821 to 1826 she attended a school run by the Miss Byerlys at Barford House, and after that Avonbank in Stratford-on-Avon where she received the traditional education in arts, the classics, decorum and propriety given to young ladies.

On 30 August 1832 Elizabeth married a Unitarian minister, William Gaskell.  The Gaskells then settled in Manchester, where William was the minister at Cross Street Unitarian Chapel.  They had six children, though only four lived.

The Gaskells' social circle included writers, religious dissenters and social reformers such as William and Mary Howitt. Charles Dickens, John Ruskin, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Eliot Norton. Her close friend Charlotte Brontë stayed with them three times, and on one occasion hid behind the drawing room curtains as she was too shy to meet the Gaskells' other visitors.

Gaskell died suddenly of a heart attack in 1865 at the age of 55.

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